Lawrence leaders mull code changes following Pet World fire

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LAWRENCE, Kan. -- A fire that killed dozens of animals at a Lawrence pet store was ruled an accidental electrical fire. As people gathered at Pet World for a vigil on Wednesday night, city officials are talking about changes to prevent similar fires, which would be welcomed by dozens of pet lovers who were heartbroken by the fire.

“It really hurt me, but hopefully they rebuild the place,” said Mason Houghton.

Many turned out to show support at the vigil. The fire started out in an electrical panel, near many paper and cardboard products. The space was built in the 1980’s, and classified as a “Type-B” occupancy.

“They’re historically the safest, and so they have the fewest protection requirements,” said Lawrence Fire Department Division Chief James King.

Under Lawrence’s previous and current fire codes, such a space was not required to have an automatic fire alarm system, smoke detection or sprinklers. King says all of those things would have changed the outcome of the Pet World fire.

“Had an automatic sprinkler system or smoke detection or an automatic alarm been in place, the outcome would have been different,” he said.

King said the city first discussed changes to the fire code last November, when a fire at Christal K-9 Pet Styling killed two animals. In the weeks to come, King plans to meet with city leaders to require that all animal care, or housing businesses include alarms, sprinklers, smoke detection, and CO-2 detectors if they use gas.

Exsisting businesses would be required to have monitored fire alarms that include smoke detection and notification. Any newly constructed building over 3,000 square feet would be required to have the automatic sprinklers as well.